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The Affect of Mold Exposure on Young Children


Exposure to moldy and damp indoor environments is known to be harmful to a person’s health. What isn’t studied as often, how much mold can affect children. If a child is exposed to mold as an infant, will the effects last into adolescence?

A 2010 research study completed in Korea, examined what factors led to the development of allergic rhinitis (AR) in pre-school age children. Sixteen childcare centers throughout Korea were chosen, with 480 boys and 453 girls participating in the study. The research study used an ISSAC survey (International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood) to gather information. The survey was divided into three parts- gather general patient information, a history of related symptoms, and exposure to environmental factors.

Allergic rhinitis is defined as an inflammation of the nasal passage along with symptoms, such as nasal blockage, sneezing, or itching. For a child to qualify as having AR for the questionnaire, there must be a presence of symptoms, within the past 12 months.

The results of the survey showed that there was a 17% rate of AR in preschool age children. Factors that make a child more likely to have AR include a history of asthma, use of antibiotics, and exposure to mold during infancy. While this study was only testing for allergic rhinitis, it does show that mold exposure as an infant, makes a child more likely to be sick during preschool age.

Another study in Sweden examined how mold exposure affects a child from 2 months to 16 years of age. Children born between February 1994 and November 1996, were followed for 16 years to determine how early mold exposure altered their health. Questionnaires were completed by the children’s parents starting at 2 months and continuing at ages 2, 4, 8, and 16. Over 3,500 children participated in the survey.

The presence of infant mold exposure was based on the results of the 2-month survey. The survey analyzed three main factors: whether there was a mold or mildew odor, whether there had been visible mold in the past year, and whether there were any signs of dampness damage.

Several health outcomes were monitored throughout the study, including asthma and rhinitis. A child was determined to be suffering from asthma if they had 4 or more episodes of wheezing in the last 12 months or 1 episode of wheezing, in addition to taking inhaled steroids. A child’s asthma was categorized as either early transient (developed between 1-4 years old), persistent (developed between ages 1-4, and continued through ages 8-16), or late onset (developed between ages 8-16). Rhinitis was considered present in a child if he or she experienced eye or nose symptoms, after being exposed to allergens or was diagnosed by a physician.

The results of the study showed that the largest percentage of children were exposed to dampness damage at 23.5%. 9.1% of children were exposed to mold odor and 8.6% to visible mold. At age 16, 6.4% of the children had asthma. Exposure to mold, the presence of visible mold, and dampness damage, all increased the risk of a child developing asthma. Children exposed to these factors were most likely to develop persistent asthma, as opposed to early transient or late onset. 25.4% of children in the study developed rhinitis. Interestingly, both mold odor and visible mold increased the prevalence of rhinitis while dampness damage did not. The results of this experiment further indicate that a child’s environment as an infant does contribute to their health later in life.

After reviewing both studies, it is clear that exposing an infant or young child to a moldy environment is quite harmful. Not only does it negatively affect the child at the initial exposure but, the effects could be seen for years in the future.

Thacher, J. D. et al. “Mold and Dampness Exposure and Allergic Outcomes from Birth to Adolescence: Data from the BAMSE Cohort.” Allergy 72.6 (2017): 967–974. PMC. Web. 15 Dec. 2017.
Thacher, J. D. et al. “Mold and Dampness Exposure and Allergic Outcomes from Birth to Adolescence: Data from the BAMSE Cohort.” Allergy 72.6 (2017): 967–974. PMC. Web. 15 Dec. 2017.

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